Less than two weeks before Christmas my mother called me at my office in town to announce there was a rather strange looking delivery for me.
“Honey, it looks like a tree of some kind.”
“That’s nice, Mom,” I mumbled, trying to keep my mind on work matters, “who sent it?”
“Uh…listen dear, not only is it a tree, but there’s a bird in it. The card says Guess Who.”
I live with my parents on a small farm. Once inside the kitchen that evening I confessed I might know who the sender was. Meantime, we asked Jake, our farm hand, to go ahead and plant the tree and find a place in the old chicken house for the medium sized pheasant. Poor little thing looked lonely--the Partridge, not Jake.
The next day Mom called me at work again.
“This may sound crazy but there’s been another delivery of a tree with a bird in it, and a little cage with two of the sweetest doves. They are simply cooing themselves silly.”
I decided to take some time off in order to unravel this mystery. Jake was already busy planting the second tree when I got home.
The next morning when I heard the delivery truck rumbling up to the house I was out the door before the driver and his helper had the goods on the ground. Of course you must know what it was; plus three French hens. I demanded information.
“Who,” I seethed, “Is sending all the unwanted flora and fauna?”
“We just deliver, lady. Sign here.” Then he was gone.
On the fourth day, Jake was already standing by with his shovel and a wire cage. This time there were talking birds, calling out, as if in need of help. They weren’t the only ones.
By the fifth day, Mom and Dad pitched in to dig holes. We must have looked like a goofy shovel posse all lined up as the daily delivery truck wound its way to where we stood.
The driver growled, “Why can’t he just send ‘em all at once? This is stupid if you ask me.”
Then he handed me a small package containing what looked like five gold rings. I was stunned.
“Who?” I pleaded again.
“How should I know? Must be a kook.”
On the sixth day, noisy geese were added to the feathered creatures. On the seventh, the menagerie included elegant swans. Jake put them in the pond behind the house.
The eighth day brought a decided change. The usual delivery van was followed by a big open farm truck. Out stepped eight young women, each carrying a little stool. Some cows followed. We were speechless. Where would all these people and bovine stay? Unflappable Jake said they could sleep in the barn.
On day nine, the Sheriff came to see if he knew any of the dancing ladies who waltzed off the bus. He managed to corral them, and the 16 milkmaids, and get them to a hotel.
The next morning, he waited alongside the rest of us for the next onslaught. Sure enough, more dairymaids and tap dancing Rockette wanna-be types arrived with the usual fare. Today’s addition included some serious looking musicians all playing woodwind instruments.
The Sheriff yelled at the driver. “Turn around and take this crowd back to town, Harold.”
Harold sighed and backed onto our beautiful lawn, leaving big holes in the sod.
The eleventh day gifts included some weird fellows who kept leaping in the air. We sent them to the hospital.
Workers stayed up all night to install an iron gate to keep the twelfth day’s unsolicited vehicles out. Drum banging percussionists nearly drowned out the flutes, the incessant stomping and whirling people, and birds screaming from fright.
When Harold stopped the bus, I held up my hand and shook my head. He nodded and put it in reverse. There was a big bottle of Aspirin on his dashboard.
We kept the beautiful trees. All the birds were given to the zoo. I’m not sure where the dancers, milkmaids, and musicians went. I sold the gold to pay for the new gate.
The misguided suitor who was so insistent that I accept these outlandish Christmas presents proved he was not my true love. Real love does not assume, it finds out.
The best gift is borne of thoughtfulness and in observation of what someone needs and could actually use. 12 trees and a nice ring would have been enough.
*With apologies to the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas song, and to the liturgical church’s definition of the real twelve days of the celebration of Christ’s birth.
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